For eternity I shall offer applause
If you have ever doubted the awe-inspiring, indescribable lengths that God will go to save anyone—keep reading. Man, have I got a story for you. It's about how God reached me through the eyes of a little boy named Cedarric Collins.
My brother AJ. and I were living in a small apartment in Seattle, Washington. We were attending college and trying to finish our education by working nights and studying days.
A.J. went to church regularly. He had found Jesus during his time at Auburn Adventist Academy. As for me, I had rebelled against my parents since their divorce, and been on my own for a few years prior to joining A.J. "Hey Pat," he said while we were sitting in the kitchen, "would you like to go to church with me?"
"Look," I said, "I have told you a million times, if you want to go to church, that's wonderful, and if you believe in God—terrific. But this religion thing is not for me, so back off."
"All right," he said. "I tell you what—I'll make a deal with you. You come to church with me once, and I'll never bother you again about religion."
A melodic offer
The offer was melodic. A.J. was relentless in trying to convert me. Every week it was the same question from him with the same answer from me. Now here was an opportunity to never hear again my kid brother drone on about how he's going to miss me in heaven. "You've got a deal," I shouted. "I go once and you never bother me again, agreed?"
"One condition," I added. "If I go, I go as I am," pointing my finger at him. "I'm not going to be any different from what I normally would be."
"Agreed," he said again.
Sabbath morning came and I was ready. I remembered one thing about church people; if you didn't look like them, they left you alone. I had earrings in each ear, and to complement the presentation I wore my torn Levi jeans, black hiking boots, and a matching biker's jacket. I left gritty stubble on my face and a gritty countenance.
"Let's go," I said to my brother. A.J. wasn't overly surprised when he saw me. "OK," he replied, "let's go."
When we arrived at the church, there were a few people who shook my hand. I wasn't stupid—I knew these people had been prepped for my arrival. But overall, what I thought would happen did happen. The church just didn't know what to make of me, and they left me alone.
As the sermon began, Pastor Roscoe Howard asked the church to turn in their Bibles to a passage. The rustling of rice paper pages began to fill the room as members were finding the book and the chapter. I sat quietly with my arms crossed against my chest and my back slightly slouched in the pew. There was only 30 minutes left and I would be free from my brother's nagging!
While the others were turning their Bibles, I didn't have one, nor did I want one. Suddenly I felt a tug on my jacket. I turned and faced a little curly haired, light-skinned young boy no more than 10 years old. "Hi," he said to me. "My name is Cedarric."
"Hi," I snapped back. I then quickly turned toward the pastor again, trying to make clear that I was not interested in getting to know anyone. The tug came again. This time I scowled and said, "What"?
"What's your name?" he asked, unabashed.
"Kid, if I tell you my name, will you leave me alone?" I said rapidly.
I was prepared for adult attempts at conversion but I found myself helpless against this curious, little, nosy kid!
"My name is Pat," I said. I looked closely at him and whispered, "Now listen carefully to the sermon. You might learn something."
Cedarric then turned away from me and faced the front. He pulled out one of those ballpoint plastic pens. From my side view I saw little fingers tightly pressed around the pen and a tongue hanging out of his mouth in determined concentration. He was writing something in his Bible, and I knew his attention was away from me. But the writing soon stopped, the tongue was back in his mouth, and he turned toward me again and nudged my shoulder with his Bible.
"It's for you," he said as both our hands held the book at the same time. "I wrote your name in it," a big toothy grin flashed.
I looked at the Bible, then held it back out to him, "I don't want this, kid. You keep it."
Cedarric began shifting away in the pew. "No, really, it's for you," he said.
I didn't want to make a scene in front of everybody over why I didn't want this Bible, so the exchange was made and we both sat quietly.
The service ended and I made a sprint for the door. I was in the car waiting for my brother.
"Whadya think?" he asked.
"I hated it," I said. "I told you, if you believe, that's great, but it's not for me, and I want no part of it. I've kept my end of this deal. Now I never want to hear any conversion stuff from you anymore." The rest of the ride home was silent.
When we got home, I walked in carrying that Bible. I didn't know what to do with it. I wanted to throw it, but it had my name written in it in little kid chicken scratch. So I placed it on top of the fridge. When I returned in the evening and sat in the kitchen to eat something, the Bible was still there. I felt bothered by it, so I threw it in the living room. When I went into the living room to watch TV, there it sat again.
The questions kept coming
Over the next four days, that Bible moved from place to place to place in our apartment, depending on which room I was in. On Thursday night, I was sitting on my bed. It was one of those nights when the air stood still and you could see the street lights filter through the rain drops on the window. All was quiet, and I just lay there. I looked over, and that Bible was sitting on my dresser. It cast a shadow on the wall in the dim light of the bedroom. I gazed at it and the thoughts started unfolding in my mind:
Does He really exist?
Where did I come from, and where am I going?
Is all there is to life—the garbage I have lived through these past 22 years?
If Jesus Christ doesn't exist, if He is no more than just a myth, why do I hate Him as much as I do?
What possesses a kid to give me his Bible when I looked the way I did?
The questions kept coming as I sat there. I had been running all my life. From what? I didn't believe, so why run? I had to get some answers, and now was the time. I walked across the kitchen to my brother's bedroom.
"Look," I said to him sternly. "Don't flip out on me, don't get all excited, or even think this really means anything, but I have a few questions I need answered. I guess I would like to ask your pastor about them."
A.J. looked back at me, grinned and said, "Sure." A year and a half later, I was baptized.
Being the glimpse of God
Even now as I sit to write this story and go over it again, I am awed at the length Jesus would go to save me. I am amazed at how much He really loved me when I hated Him. It has changed my life forever.
A little while after I was baptized at the Emerald City Adventist church, I made a small presentation. I told my story to the entire church as the "Amens," and "Praise Gods," echoed through the sanctuary. I called Cedarric up front and talked about the power one person can have when they live by faith and not by sight. I handed him a present. It was a brand-new, black leather-bound Bible with his name in gold letters imprinted on the front. "Thanks, Cedarric," I told him. "Thanks for being the glimpse of God that changed the way I saw Him forever."
Just one soul forever can be
Praising God for eternity
If you will move by spirit and not by sight
And leave fear with the devil who's the founder affright.
My life now witnesses till the end
Of a loving God and a forgiving friend.
How did it happen? Why now do I live by His laws?
It's because Jesus forgot I was a lost cause.
Pat Grant is a student at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University; Berrien Springs, Michigan; U.S.A. His postal address: 600 Beechwood Ct, Apt. D49; Berrien Springs, MI 49104; U.S.A.